There’s no typo in the title of this post. Methistopheles is indeed the name of the debut album by the Southern California band Sixes. Think for a moment about such a union, about the scourge of meth joined to a conception of Lucifer not as a fallen angel but as the master of eternal tortures. Imagine desperation, derangement, and pain without end.
To be clear, I don’t know if that’s precisely the linguistic suggestion that Sixes had in mind when they coined the album title. My imagination could simply have fallen prey to the influence of the album’s music, which draws from poisoned wellsprings of sludge, stoner doom, and black metal to express abject misery in particularly devastating but perversely entrancing ways.
The music may turn your imaginings in other directions… none of them very pretty or comforting… but the best way to find out is to listen to the album. And you can do that now through our premiere of the record a few days before its March 1 release by Black Bow Records.
The music here is a form of utterly bleak sonic gigantism that vibrates you down to the soles of your feet, married to myriad manifestations of mind-mangling agony and mortifying doom. The band’s main modus operandi is to lock into hungering, bone-grinding riffs and let them rumble and pound the listener into a widening sinkhole of despair, while performing sadistic experiments on your emotional stability.
The tools of this terrible trade include titanic, corroded chords, spleen-rupturing drum blows, gravel-voiced bass emanations, and brain-mangling feedback, which sometimes comes across like a slow-boiling soul trying to communicate even though it’s lost its mind, and at other times like the cacophony of a madhouse for the criminally insane on fire. The tones coaxed from the lead guitar seem to mimic the sounds of moaning, pleading, humiliation, and the kind of lunacy produced by pain that has been pushed beyond the bounds of human endurance.
The vocals aren’t ever-present — more gone than there — but uniformly shattering when present. They are themselves the sounds of an asylum, one rendered into a slaughterhouse — shrieks and howls of agony, demented warbling, harrowing roars, and much more.
In its pacing the music usually counts the beats in a slow run-down to Armageddon, broken by only moderate amounts of head-moving acceleration. After the calamitous, psychoactive dirge of “Acid God”, you get a taste of Sixes in rumbling juggernaut mode in “A Cross To Burn”. “Fogbreather” combines mid-paced jackhammering with vocal yells and wails so disturbingly intense that they’re capable of raising goosebumps on your arms. You’re well into the fourth song (the title track) before the tempo becomes maniacally frenzied, as Sixes erupt in flurries of blasting, boiling mayhem. “Motherless”, on the other hand, is a methodical and merciless crush-fest that operates like a plague vector.
There’s a twist at the end, during the first half of “Voidkiller”. Still slow, the music becomes softer, providing space for a haunting, queasy, psychedelic dual-guitar melody and bluesy, tormented clean singing over a subdued bass thrum. Things still don’t feel right; they just feel wrong in a different way, like a spectral narcotic dream. The album might have ended this way, but the song’s second half turns the dream in the direction of a mental apocalypse.
“The writing and recording process for this album was an exorcism of sorts, we put it all out there. I don’t think it took,” says vocalist and guitarist Stephen Cummings. “It’s heavy, it’s dark, and it’s miserable.” That’s no lie.
If you’ve read this far, you might ask why anyone would subject themselves to such extravagant expressions of physical, emotional, and mental catastrophe? Well, because it’s damned addictive… and damned head-moving… and damned mesmerizing. And we may all be damned anyway, so why not just sink all the way into this heaving tar pit and enjoy the riveting experience until oblivion overtakes us?
Methistopheles was recorded by Brent Wisdom at 13 O’Clock Studios and mastered by Brad Boatright. The cover art was designed by Ryan Bartlett.
The album is available for pre-order from Black Bow Records; additional formats will become available via Poisoned Mind Records, Forbidden Place Records, and Medusa Crush Recordings.